Evangelical charities partner with churches to aid Puerto Ricans impacted by Hurricane Fiona

A man walks down a flooded street in the Juana Matos neighborhood of Catano, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 19, 2022, after the passage of Hurricane Fiona.
A man walks down a flooded street in the Juana Matos neighborhood of Catano, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 19, 2022, after the passage of Hurricane Fiona. | AFP via Getty Images

As Hurricane Fiona has left at least eight people dead and hundreds of thousands without water or electricity in Puerto Rico, Evangelical humanitarian groups have partnered with local churches on the island to bring relief to those suffering.

The North Carolina-based Samaritan's Purse, led by evangelist Franklin Graham, airlifted over 16 tons of emergency relief supplies after Fiona tore through the southern and western portions of the Caribbean island. 

The storm hit the Caribbean Island as a Category 1 hurricane and brought torrential rains, as high as 30 inches or more in some places. The massive rainfall triggered catastrophic flash flooding and landslides, causing power and water outages impacting up to as many as 3 million people. 

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The relief supplies airlifted by Samaritan's Purse include 2,200 shelter tarps, two community water filtration units and 1,000 portable family water containers, Samaritan's Purse said in a statement.

"At least 1,000 people had to be rescued from raging currents," the statement reads.

"We are partnering with local churches that we worked with after Hurricane Maria in 2017 to meet families' physical needs while reminding them of the hope found only in Jesus Christ," said Samaritan's Purse President Graham, the son of the late evangelist Billy Graham. 

Samaritan’s Purse team members unload relief supplies air lifted to Puerto Rico.
Samaritan’s Purse team members unload relief supplies air lifted to Puerto Rico. | Samaritan's Purse

Operation Blessing, a nonprofit affiliated with the Christian Broadcasting Network, has delivered over 10,000 aqua tabs to clean water to be used for drinking and cooking. The charity has also provided cleaning buckets, tarps and other essential items. 

"That is exactly what we need now in this time where there are so many people with fear and anxiety," Pastor Giovanni Sasde of Gosèn Family Church in the southern coastal city of Ponce said in a statement shared by the charity. 

International Christian aid charity World Vision is also raising funds and preparing to send supplies, including cleaning supplies, clothes, blankets, tents and fans.

World Vision says that its relief workers connect with partners, including churches, to help areas impacted by natural disasters. 

"I couldn't imagine being in such a place and not getting the assistance and the help that I need and you know people can't reach me," Roberta Taylor, the warehouse manager for World Vision in Fife, Scotland, told KIRO7

"You see the water or whatever's going on still in place and then you see all these people displaced by this disaster, nowhere to go."

Hurricane Fiona had strengthened to as high as Category 4 before weakening into what is now a post-tropical cyclone. The storm barrelled into Canada's Atlantic coast Saturday, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power. 

Parts of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick are experiencing torrential rains and hurricane-force gusts. According to the Canadian Hurricane Center, Fiona is the lowest-pressure land-falling storm in Canadian history. 

"It's going to a bad one," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday. "We of course hope there won't be much needed, but we feel there probably will be. And we will be there for that. In the meantime we encourage everyone to stay safe and to listen to the instructions of local authorities and hang in there for the next 24 hours."

Fiona comes five years after Hurricane Maria killed over 3,000 people across the Caribbean. Striking Puerto Rico as a Category 4, Maria was the costliest storm in the island's history. 

Central Puerto Rico Resident Carlos Correa told The Weather Channel that his family had to flee Fiona just like they did after Hurricane Maria. 

"The PTSD is really strong around here, but, you know, we have to stand still and keep going," Correa said. 

A Harvard University study estimated at the time that 4,645 deaths could be linked to Hurricane Maria, a number that far exceeded official data.

In the aftermath of Maria, Samaritan's Purse conducted 41 airlifts to deliver shelter materials, food, generators and water filtration systems. The charity worked with over 300 churches and provided basic medical care for survivors of the hurricane. The group tallies that it provided relief to over 350,000 families in the year following the hurricane. 

Samaritan's Purse also launched a multi-year recovery plan to rebuild hundreds of homes and dozens of churches severely damaged by Maria in central and southern Puerto Rico.

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